Five years after his election, Pope Francis continues to energize the Roman Catholic Church by calling for people to experience God’s love and mercy. Catholics, and those who attend Catholic institutions such as Georgetown, need to follow the Pope’s lead by taking an honest look at what this message requires of us and how we can embody it in our daily lives.
Pope Francis has rooted much of his message in opposition to a “throwaway culture” that discards people and creation when they no longer seem convenient, claiming such a practice violates God’s abundant and unconditional love for all people at all times. Pope Francis highlights four main groups as needing protection: the unborn, the poor, migrants and refugees and the environment. To ignore one of these groups is to perpetuate throwaway culture and therefore hurt all of these groups.
In his apostolic exhortation, a letter written by popes following a meeting of bishops, Pope Francis wrote: “Defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.” To Pope Francis, abortion violates the dignity of a human being, and is thus a perpetrator of throwaway culture.
Pope Francis also argues that no Catholic is excused from the obligation to care for the poor and to promote justice. “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.” He includes himself in this call. When he visited Washington, D.C., in 2015, he ate with the homeless. He has also continually encouraged and led the church in support of migrants and refugees, which can be seen in his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2016 and his decision to bring Syrian refugees into Vatican City. He not only encourages the church to care for the most vulnerable of society, but he truly takes these actions himself.
Finally, throwaway culture hurts the environment. In his papal encyclical, “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis preaches that throwaway culture has led humans to treat creation with disregard for anything except their own prosperity and desires. Throwaway culture not only hurts other people, but it destroys our planet.
By protecting the unborn, the poor, immigrants and refugees and the environment from throwaway culture, Pope Francis’ message cuts across all partisan boundaries. It applies to all Catholics, no matter where they live or what occupations they hold.
We at Georgetown, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, then, are obviously not immune to his call.
Many student groups and volunteer opportunities work to care for the most vulnerable of society and creation. However, Pope Francis teaches us that a threat to any group of people violates human dignity and can therefore be viewed as a threat to all groups of people. Students often find themselves called to a particular issue and work only in that field. While that work is important, I encourage my fellow students to try serving in a different field and celebrate life to better understand Pope Francis’ call to care for all humanity.
Club culture can make us siloed in our own club’s mission or focus. Let’s respond to Pope Francis’ mission by working outside of our initial area of interest or partnering and supporting other student groups. Together we can live out Pope Francis’ mission for another five years.
MyLan Metzger is a junior in the College. She currently serves as program coordinator for the Francis Project: Hoyas for Human Dignity and Life.